Know the Facts

Helping you make informed decisions about your drinking

Short-term Effects of Drinking

Noticeable effects

The effects you notice after drinking are due mainly to the action of alcohol in the central nervous system (CNS) where it affects the balance of neurotransmitters (chemicals that send messages between nerves). The disruption alcohol causes in the CNS gives rise to a number of noticeable effects including:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Reduced inhibition and increased impulsivity
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • ‘Blackouts’, where you don’t remember what happened
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty walking and balancing
  • Mood swings and extreme emotions
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing

Risk of accident and injury

The reduction in cognitive abilities, reduced inhibitions and impaired motor skills leaves drinkers at a serious risk of harm, even when they are in a private setting. Every drink you have increases your risk of injuring yourself badly enough to have to go to hospital. When you have 5 drinks on one occasion you are twice as likely to injure yourself than if you only had 2 drinks. The risk increases with every extra drink you have.

(Graph of associated risk when drinking)

For example, drivers who have consumed alcohol are more likely to speed, to hit another vehicle, and to not wear seatbelts. As a result, 30% of car accidents in Australia have been attributed to alcohol use. People who have been drinking are also at increased risk of unintentional injury. In Australia, alcohol use has been linked to 44% of fire injuries, 34% of falls and drowning, and 10% of industrial accidents.

Hidden effects

In addition to the noticeable effects alcohol use causes to your body, there are other effects happening that you are probably not aware of. These include effects on:

Your stomach

The lining of the stomach can become inflamed, sometimes causing diarrhoea.

Your cardiovascular system

High alcohol use can cause irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, shortness of breath and even heart failure.

Your immune system

Alcohol affects the production of all types of blood cells, including those that act in immune response. This makes you vulnerable to illnesses and impedes recovery from existing illnesses and injuries.

Your lungs

Alcohol lowers the immune system response and disrupts a protein that keeps fluid out of lungs, leading to respiratory infections.

Vitamin levels

Alcohol interferes with absorption, storage and distribution of a range of vitamins. Vitamin B levels in particular are reduced.

Hormones and sexual functioning

Alcohol use causes alterations in several important hormones, including testosterone. This can result in reduced libido and impotence.

While short-term effects from drinking will generally reverse as the alcohol is processed and removed by your body, frequent and ongoing alcohol use can make these effects worse and can even become permanent.


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